Patterns and Modelbuchs


The 16th Century saw a proliferation of pattern books or modelbuchs aimed at the domestic embroiderer as well as the professional craftsman. In addition to pattern books designed specifically for artisans, many other books were used by the domestic embroiderer as a source of embroidery designs. These books fell into three main categories:

  • Herbals -Herbals are books which describe the physical characteristics and properties of herbs and other plants. John Gerard's "Herbal or General History of Plants" has long been the most famous English herbal. First published in 1597, it was republished in 1633 in an edition in which Thomas Johnson revised and enlarged the original text.

    Generally, the Latin and English (or common name for non-English herbals) is given, as is a physical description, the place of growth, the time of growth, uses (medicinal or culinary etc) and illustrations.

  • Emblem - An emblem combines a picture and text for the striking presentation of a message. For example, an emblem entitled In astrologos alongside a picture of Icarus may at first seem mystifying, but the epigram beneath the picture explains that astrologers like Icarus get into trouble because they are overreaching their human limitations. The emblem text concludes that humans should not inquire into the mysteries that God has reserved for himself.Emblems were a popular subject for 16th century embroidery.


  • Bestiary - A bestiary is a collection of short descriptions about all sorts of birds, beasts and animals, both real and imaginary. Often bestiary is too narrow a description, and the medieval term "natural history" is more apt as stones, minerals, herbs and trees might also be studied, especially in later periods. The bestiary became a popular form in England in the 12th Century. One example of the late medieval version of a bestiary is John_Maplet's A_Greene_Forest.

    Two schools' medieval bestiary are known, each descended from early Greek authors. The first type is very factual, transmitting myths only through ignorance. Best known are the works of Pliny the Elder, but a plethora of translations and works based on extended or condensed versions of this existed.

    The other kind of bestiary is not concerned with accurate descriptions of the animals, but with using the animals to explain or portray a message. Early medieval bestiaries use the animals to give a moralising explanation of the animals traits and how that reflects upon Christianity. From the 13th century onwards, "bestiaries of love" used the stories of the animals as a vehicle for the male to woo a lady. It tells fine messages about the desirable attributes of an animal, and is meant to be a message about the man.

Period Pattern Books Online

Modern Reproductions of Period Books

  • Bassee, Nicolas. "German Renaissance Patterns for Embroidery: A Facsimile Copy of Nicolas Bass?e's New Modelbuch of 1568, with an introduction by Kathleen Epstein". Austin: Curious Works Press. ISBN 0-9633331-4-3.
  • Gesner, Konrad. "Curious Woodcuts of Fanciful and Real Beasts: A selection of 190 sixteenth-century woodcuts from Gesner's and Topsell's natural histories". New York: Dover Publications, Inc. ISBN: 0-486-22701-4
  • Hofer, Hans. "Ain new Formbuech'len der weyssen Arbeyt". Nieuwkoop, Netherlands: Miland Publishers, 1968. (Facsimile of the 1545 edition published in Augsburg)
  • Nourry, Claude and Saincte Louie[sic], Pierre de. "Patterns: Embroidery - Early 16th Century". Berkeley, CA: Lacis, 1999. ISBN 1-891656-16-3.
  • Shorleyker, Richard. "A Schole-House for the Needle: Produced from the original book printed in 1632 and now in the private collection of John and Elizabeth Mason". Much Wenlock, Shropshire: RJL Smith & Associates, 1998.ISBN 1-872665-72-1.
  • Sibmacher, Johan. "Baroque Charted Designs for Needlework". New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1975. "This Dover edition, first published in 1975, is an unabridged republication of the 1880 edition of Newes Modelbuch . . . . Inn Druck verfertigt, a work originally published in Nuremberg in 1604. . ." ISBN 0-486-23186-0.
  • Vinciolo, Federico. "Renaissance Patterns for Lace, Embroidery and Needlepoint (An unabridged facsimile of the "Singuliers et nouveaux pourtraicts" of 1587)". New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1971. ISBN 0-486-22438-4
  • Newell, Kathryn. "Needlework Patterns from Renaissance Germany: Designs recharted by Kathryn Newell from Johan Sibmacher's Sch?n Neues Modelbuch, 1597". Boulder, CO: Costume & Dressmaker Press, 1999.

Modern Patterns from Period Sources

  • Carroll-Mann, Robin (as Brighid ni Chiarain of Tethba). "Some 16th Century Border Patterns for Blackwork Embroidery," Tournaments Illuminated, No. 92, Fall 1989, pp. 34-35.
  • Salazar, Kim Brody (as Ianthe d'Averoigne). "The New Carolingian Modelbook: Counted Embroidery Patterns from before 1600". Albuquerque, New Mexico: The Outlaw Press, 1995. ISBN 0-9642082-2-9.
  • Spies, Nancy. "Here By Wyverns: Hundreds of Patterns Graphed from Medieval Sources" Arelate Studio (2002) ISBN: 0-9718960-0-3